Ever since Russian gambling laws were changed restricting casino gambling to four dedicated regions of the country (Altai, Krasnodar, Primorye and Kaliningrad), a million dollar game of cat and mouse has been underway between operators and authorities.
Although the current Criminal Code stipulates that an operator can be held liable for conducting illegal gambling, including the running of online casinos in Russia, this liability only affects those establishments that generate “large” (RUB 1.5 million, USD 50,000) or “very large” (RUB 6 million, USD 200,000) daily revenue.
The problem is that without proper financial records, without direct access to the servers by the authorities, and with hourly collection of the profits, it is very difficult to monitor actual revenue in gambling halls and internet gambling parlors.
Most of the clubs also accept electronic payments through proxy services, so the money never actually appears on-site. When an audit looms the operators simply disconnect the casino from the internet. Without sufficient proof to press criminal charges, most clubs have to be let off with minor fines.
Moscow legislators have therefore sent a proposal to the State Duma, suggesting tougher rules and stricter definitions on illegal gambling.
First of all, they are urging national lawmakers to remove the minimum revenue requirements of operators being held criminally liable.
They also wish to empower the Federal Service of Telecom, IT and Mass Communications Supervision (Roskomnadzor) with blocking all online gambling sites. This would place them in the same category as web pages dedicated to pornography, illegal drugs and the promotion of suicide.
Finally, Moscow councilors would also like to see the spreading of “information to participate in games of chance” being added to the list of banned activities.
The plight of these politicians is understandable, and must be quite familiar to anyone who has been reading gambling news dealing with the impacts of badly written, ineffective gambling laws worldwide.
What is much less easy to understand is why there haven’t been any proposals to create a clear, regulated and monitored environment for such gambling parlors, instead of letting them function in a constant twilight zone. Legalization, transparent rules for licensing, a direct backdoor link to operators’ servers by authorities, automated hourly financial reports and other tried and tested tools could go a long way.